While You Were Sleeping: 5 stories you might have missed, Dec 24

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Trump, irritated by resignation letter, pushes out Mattis early

US President Donald Trump on Sunday (Dec 23) said he was replacing Defense Secretary Jim Mattis two months earlier than had been expected, a move officials said was driven by Trump's anger at Mattis' resignation letter and its rebuke of his foreign policy.

On Thursday, Mattis had abruptly said he was quitting, effective Feb 28, after falling out with Trump over his foreign policy, including surprise decisions to withdraw all troops from Syria and start planning a drawdown in Afghanistan.

Trump has come under withering criticism from fellow Republicans and international allies in recent days over his moves to wind down US involvement in Syria and Afghanistan, against the advice of his top aides and US commanders.


Macron says 'an ally must be reliable' after US Syria pullout announcement

French President Emmanuel Macron on Sunday (Dec 23) criticised US President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw American forces from Syria, saying "an ally must be reliable".

In a sign of the growing diplomatic rift between the two leaders, Macron said "I deeply regret the decision" by Trump to pullout US troops.

Trump last week ordered a complete troop pullout from Syria, asserting that the Islamic State group had been defeated, as well as a significant withdrawal from Afghanistan.


Trump, Erdogan vow to avoid Syria power vacuum after US forces leave

Donald Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan agreed Sunday (Dec 23) to prevent a power vacuum in Syria after US ground forces withdraw, in a phone conversation days after the US president shocked global partners by announcing Americans would leave the war-scarred country.

Turkey was a rare ally that lauded Trump's momentous decision to pull the 2,000 US troops out of Syria, where they have been helping assisting in a multinational fight against ISIS.

"The two leaders agreed to ensure coordination between their countries' military, diplomatic and other officials to avoid a power vacuum which could result following any abuse of the withdrawal and transition phase in Syria," the Turkish presidency said in a statement.


Aquaman makes a big splash to top North American box office

New Warner Bros. release Aquaman made the biggest waves in North American theaters over the weekend with US$67.4 million (S$92.6 million) in ticket sales, industry tracker Exhibitor Relations estimated Sunday.

That put it well ahead of two other new holiday-timed releases, as Disney's Mary Poppins Returns took in US$22.2 million for the three-day weekend, flying slightly higher than Paramount's Bumblebee at US$21 million.

Together, the three helped boost the year's domestic box-office revenue toward a record US$11.8 billion, Hollywood Reporter said.


Football: Spurs shine to hit Everton for six

Tottenham Hotspur showed why manager Mauricio Pochettino is a wanted man by thrashing Everton 6-2 at Goodison Park on Sunday (Dec 23) to close to within six points of Premier League leaders Liverpool.

Spurs have had to cope with the unwanted attention of Pochettino being linked with the Manchester United job following Jose Mourinho's sacking this week.

But they showed no signs of being distracted as they roared back from a goal down thanks to doubles from Son Heung-min and Harry Kane with Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen also on target.


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